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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jane Austen's Intended Audience and also her Department of Redundancy Department

And here are two responses I made regarding Jane Austen's shadow stories, first to Christy Somer, in which I speculated why Jane Austen would have wanted her shadow stories to be visible mostly to a female readership, and the second to Nancy Mayer, in which I speculated why JA would have layered in multiple allusions to cover essentially the same covert theme:


Me: "But I claim that JA's goal, Nancy, was NOT to be universally understood, only to be understood by those who were oriented to look at all her character names as potential clues to allusions--i.e., only by those readers who paid her the respect of NOT underestimating her, and therefore taking her textual winks and nods seriously. And I think JA (correctly) anticipated that, for the most part, the only readers of hers who would pay her that respect would be FEMALE readers---"

Christy: "This presumed goal being Jane Austen's own, with such a 'demand' for respect, sounds rather vengeful to my reading eyes! Hm......well, at least these eyes do not pick up such a background firmament of revenge!"

Wow, Christy, it's fascinating what you read into what I wrote, which was not what I was suggesting at all. I am not talking about a demand for respect, I am talking about JA being like Miss Bates, and taking advantage of the way men of her time dismissed women's writing, in a very karmic way. I.e., if men were going to minimize and ignore women's writing, then it was only fitting and just that by this ignoring, women would be able to safely communicate with each other about the issues of
greatest importance to women, without fear of male retribution.

If the men don't know that women are passing these "subversive" messages, then the messages can be safely transmitted. And if a man suspects "foul play", and asks, of course JA would answer "Who me? I would NEVER suggest such a thing! Perish the thought!" Which, if you read the way JA responded to James Stanier Clarke, is EXACTLY how she responded.

JA was not about revenge, that would be pointless. She was all about protecting women, and knew she could only do it with one hand tied behind her back--she could not say openly what she felt. So she tried her best to promulgate the truth in a way that would not get her demonized the way Wollstonecraft was demonized, and would have at least a chance of reaching some of her intended female audience.

Read Polwhele's "unsex'd females" diatribe sometime, and it will send a chill down your spine, as it surely sent one down JA's spine. That sort of powerful man was not to be *&#@$&'ed with openly!

JA was not ready to die in Tianmen Square (and I deliberately invoke that modern event, because I think part of the reason why JA makes reference to riots in NA is to alert the reader that she IS AWARE of the kinds of horrific social injustice that was rampant in her world, in which the "little guy" got screwed and got angry enough to rise up, albeit irrationally and violently) ---she was very rational, and she
calculated the risks and the benefits, and she did her best to live and to make a difference. Sadly, on so many levels, she did not live long enough to make a difference in her own era, but she has made a huge difference in the world today.


"How were all those perceptive females supposed to investigate all these clues? They didn't have Google books or the internet and most were not trained in doing any sort of research."

As I said, it did not require an Internet to find out that Bath's most famous mapmaker was named Thorpe. So that part of the allusion would have been accessible to people around England who had access to books.

The Farley Hungerford, the Ralph Allen, the Samuel Morland, etc etc, would be accessible to those who knew social history.

"The allusive echoes are elusive echoes."

In today's world, where we DO have the Internet, these echoes are only elusive to those who, in JA's words, pretend to be deaf---let's call it "radical deafness".

"My problem is that I can't see going to such lengths for an elaborate joke or polemic without letting some one know it was there."

My feeling is that JA went by the principle of redundancy which is a basic principle of engineering. To make sure that a vital system does not fail, a prudent engineer puts in backup systems, so that if the main system fails, the backup kicks in. So part of why I believe JA layered in all these congruent allusions in her novels is that if a reader could spot ONE of them, it would be enough to get the basic message across. And if a reader armed with the Internet sees FOUR layers, then it is icing on the cake, which is, I believe most people would say, very tasty.

Cheers, ARNIE

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